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MDA races to emergencies without delaying for details

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“Magen David Adom is second only to the IDF for the safety of Israelis,” says Professor Yehuda Skornick, who heads MDA’s international relations department. In this role, he acts as the public face of MDA to the world. He is also Israel’s appointed member and ambassador to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Jewish Report spoke to him by phone on Monday at the headquarters of the MDA in Israel.
by STAFF REPORTER | Jul 21, 2014

“Every time there is an incident, such as a rocket or terrorist attack or anything like that, we automatically immediately send an MDA team to the scene. We don’t wait for details, because when there is an injury it is the first few minutes that are the most crucial to saving a life.

“The nature of the threat facing the civilians of Israel today has changed from previous times of open conflict,” he says. “The biggest threats today are the missiles and the tunnels, whose aim is to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. The tunnels are close to the Israeli settlements in the south of the country, and the terrorists come from the tunnels with the specific the aim to kill civilians.

“This morning 10 terrorists were killed coming out of a tunnel near a kibbutz, aiming to attack the people living there.”

clickathon-square-ad final newThere have been relatively few casualties among Israeli civilians so far during the current conflict because of the effectiveness of the Iron Dome and other procedures put in place where the civilians are taught how to protect themselves in buildings, on the street, etc, when a siren goes off warning of an incoming rocket. What there has been, he says, “is anxiety and shock” which also needs to be treated.

MDA has some 800 ambulances, and also scooters available throughout the country. In times of extreme need, he says, it can access other ambulances, and increase the number to about 1 000. Many of its ambulances are currently in the south of Israel near Gaza because that is where the main threat is. Which means the MDA’s capacity in the north is reduced. But for now, the threat from Lebanon is not active.

“Do we have enough ambulances? No,” he says.

For each situation, the ambulances have to be manned by emergency personnel. MDA has a permanent staff of 1 800, and about 12 000 volunteers.

“So, most of the work in emergency situations,” he says, “is done by volunteers. You know, the Jewish people, when there is problem, are always very united, and they stand together and come to help.”

With the casualties in the current conflict in Gaza mounting, how can South African Jews help? “You must convince your government not to be so hostile to Israel and to understand its situation. Explain to them that we are fighting to protect our civilians. South Africans must understand that no country can survive living under missiles and rockets attacks. The people in the south of Israel have lived for 14 years under this threat.”

“Convince members of parliament in South Africa to come to Israel to see for themselves. They will see the reality of Israel. It is not like they hear from our enemies.”

Skornick has personal knowledge of South Africa from visiting the country, the last time during Israel Apartheid Week in March this year, during which he went to the Wits campus in Johannesburg and tried to speak to people manning the anti-Israel banners to make Israel’s case.

“I know the people of South Africa,” he says. “They are warm and friendly, but they are being influenced to be against Israel. We are proud of South African Jews, your community and what you are doing. We also have many Christian friends who support us. South African Jews can help MDA by raising money for it. We do not get help from foreign governments, and don’t expect it.”

Hamas has a policy to put Gaza civilians in harm’s way, he says. “The IDF warned people close to the border in Gaza that we were going in and they should move to avoid harm. But Hamas told them to stay, so many were hurt. Hamas wants there to be civilians hurt, so it will show Israel to be killing civilians.”

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